The end of the year is a great time to look back on the year passed and re-assess where we took our lives, what we did, where we have come from… and then take a few moments in stillness to think about where we would like our paths to take us in the year ahead. Old European customs would have that this is the quiet time of year, filled with gentle music, meditative thought, and reflective appreciation of those who we hold dear.

This is pure legend and folklore.

My experience would have it that the pre-Christmas period is filled with an urgency to try get everything done at work that desperately needs to be taken care of, attend a million Christmas get-togethers, and racing about through crowded shopping districts.

And this is my long-winded excuse for not participating in the official 10,000 Birds Best Bird of the Year 2011 round-up.

But now that I have a bit of time off this week, I am getting around to reassessing 2011, and there is one birding moment that stands out and for which I am very much grateful.

I was in a bird photography hide in Kaeng Krachan National Park in Thailand (with Alex Vargas) and we had just had an absolutely fabulous day enjoying and photographing a great variety of birds (and a Crab-eating Mongoose) when we were just getting ready to pack up and leave. All of a sudden, a flock of these crazy almost drongo-like birds popped out of the understory and started playing and showing off their finery right in front of us:

It was one of those moments that really just gob-smacked me: I just really had not expected the Racket-tailed Treepie (Crypsirina temia) to be anywhere near that beautiful. My guide book depicted them as rather drab black birds and I had assumed that they would be somewhat iridescent, but I really did not expect the diversity of wowness that this bird presented.

The beautiful eye, jet-black plumage, an even darker facial mask and a great big long tail. What is there not to love about the Racket-tailed Treepie?

The Racket-tailed Treepie was not the rarest bird I saw in 2011. It quite possibly was not the prettiest bird I saw in 2011. But the timing, the unexpected 1minute before midnight out-of-the-blueness of it, and its stunning beauty all combined to take my breath away.

I am deeply grateful for the beauty 2011 shared with me, and may 2012 bring all of you moments of wowness and grandeur.

Happy birding,

Dale Forbes


Written by Dale Forbes
Dale grew up in the forests and savannas of South Africa, developing a love for nature from a young age. After studying Zoology and Wildlife Science, he moved to Central America to continue his work in conservation biology. He is a member of BirdLife International’s Advisory Board and is Swarovski Optik’s Head of Strategic Business Development.